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Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor

Steve Alexander, Associate Editor

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Valerie Austin - Editorial Associate


Voleo - New Trading Tech for the Next Generation

Thomas Beattie

Chief Executive Officer

Voleo Trading Systems Inc.



Thomas Beattie


Interview conducted by:

Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine

Published – January 27, 2020

CEOCFO: Mr. Beattie, what is the concept behind Voleo?

Mr. Beattie: Voleo wants to help the next generation of investors get started in preparing their financial future. For us, that means breaking down the barriers and enabling people to get involved at a time when they otherwise would not. To solve that problem, we decide that collaboration was the key. We enable people to come together whether in actual investment clubs or in teams to pool their money and knowledge to start investing the stock market. That helps because they need less money, knowledge and time and they are less scared when they are approaching investing than they would be if they were doing it on their own.

CEOCFO: Are people more likely to look at the group approach today than they might have years back?

Mr. Beattie: Investment clubs used to be the domain of the wealthy. This is an idea that is at least 100 years old and it has gone through several different ways. The last craze was in the 90s. People’s lives changed after the 90s but the way that we interact has changed as well and this provided a new opportunity. Mobile internet has provided a way for us to get people together virtually in real time wherever they were, and at whatever time of the day or night made sense of them to be able to collaborate and share these ideas. On our platform when someone has a trading idea, they will share it with their friends who get an immediate notification. You can also invest solo, or if operating as a club the members vote on those trades and upon hitting the club’s majority condition, they go to market automatically for execution. We are enabling collaboration remotely in real time and this aligns with the way people are interacting with social networks today.

CEOCFO: How do you help a group or a person start an investment club?

Mr. Beattie: There were a lot of hurdles to establishing an investment club before Voleo. On our platform, the individual who has had the idea creates a team and then invites their friends. Anyone who accepts is added to the club and we help them by making it easier to get the club set up.

You get our standardized partnership agreement, and there are a number of conditions that you have flexibility over. Other than that, we take care of all of the hard parts. You can be up and running with your club established inside of ten minutes; inviting all of your friends. As soon as they have on-boarded - everything happens over the app - you are able to get your team going and start investing. It is about shortening the time and reducing the effort so ordinary people can prepare for their financial future.

CEOCFO: What are some of the features available in Voleo?

Mr. Beattie: We enable investors to purchase any listed equities and ETFs. Novice investors traditionally do not find a lot of success with speculative instruments, and it is also a lower hurdle for them to get started when they invest directly into equities and ETFs. We enable members to join after the club has started and each member to contribute or withdraw money whenever they want, and it is always fair to all members because we are doing it on a mark-to-market basis.

CEOCFO: What is your business model?

Mr. Beattie: We have recently joined the zero-commission revolution, so all trades on our platform are free. Voleo has a simple and transparent subscription model that we have implemented. Our subscription costs anywhere form thirty cents to five dollars per member per month depending on the number of members, and individual accounts are just five dollars. That includes the use of the platform, the applications, the real-time data and all of the tools that we have for these clubs including all the administration including, for those who are choosing to run actual investment clubs, draft tax forms (Form 1065 and individual schedule K-1s) each year.

CEOCFO: What tools are available in terms of research and ways of communicating? What would a member of an investment club experience when they are using Voleo?

Mr. Beattie: We currently have real-time quotes, fundamental data and charts, and the means to communicate among members of your group privately, and soon we are going to have a more public forum as well. What you are able to do is discuss certain themes, topics or securities directly within the platform, share your insights and conduct votes.

One of the really unique things about Voleo’s platform is what we call our DROID score (definitive return on investment decision). That means that we track every proposal and vote made by every member and allow them to learn from all the decisions that they have made whether or not the group agreed. That is powerful because over time, you are able to lock off the positions that you wanted and definitively prove to everyone how things would have gone if your friends had listened to you.

CEOCFO: How long has Voleo been working with investment clubs?

Mr. Beattie: Voleo has been available as a simulator for nearly four years, our live platform was soft-launched in the App Stores about two years ago and we recently started to promote the app. We have thousands of funded members and tens of thousands are registered on our platform. Voleo has a growing and engaged use base that’s comprised of a roughly equal mix of men and women.

CEOCFO: Are there features that participants are not making use of that they really should?

Mr. Beattie: That is an interesting question. Recently, we started prompting our users to take advantage of creating watchlists and following other members of our community. I think that latter one is what really helps some of our novice investors get started. Understanding what people like them are doing make investing less scary and seeing how they have been doing based on prior decisions that they have made is informative. All of that fun stuff I mentioned earlier about DROID is feeding our community where you can gather insights from top performing individuals and clubs in real time. Once someone makes a trade that is effective in the market, you receive a notification if you have chosen to follow them. I believe that is something that more of our users would benefit from doing and over time, and we are seeing that the participation in the community is growing. The network effects build over time so it will get better and better!

CEOCFO: Do you care what the clubs invest in and does knowing what they are doing help you refine your offer or make decisions?

Mr. Beattie: What has impressed me about our clubs is the way that they are building their portfolios. Without urging from us, because we are self-directed platform, the majority of our clubs have built diversified portfolios across sectors and industries as well as stocks. They have done a very good job at constructing what I consider to be balanced and diversified portfolios and that is showing not only with their presence on our leader boards but with their performance; the outperformance of clubs relative to the average scores of their members is about 2%.

What I would say has been most impressive is wealth-building behavior. For example, nearly two thirds of our users contribute money to their accounts each and every month and those contributions enable them to continue to grow their portfolio over time and add on new positions. While the clubs are often led by one or two more experienced members initially, the base does expand over time and we start to see that more members build the confidence to start making recommendations to the rest of their teams.

The other thing we have noticed from the usage of our platform is that what we are offering has resonated strongly with females. At last look, over 46% of our users were female, which amongst self-directed investment platforms is an impressive statistic.

CEOCFO: Why do you suspect that is?

Mr. Beattie: I believe it is the power of collaboration. When you look at what Voleo does, it comes down to empowering those who are looking to get started, providing the means to do that together with those they know and trust without any stigma around the subject of money.

Our platform gives users the means for them to have a specific conversation in the construct of their peers, friends, family and colleagues. It makes it a lot easier for people to ask the questions that they really have about investing and the market.

CEOCFO: Would you tell us about your SimuTrader?

Mr. Beattie: SimuTrader, which is a free investment club simulator, is available to anyone and allows you to take a paper portfolio and learn a little about the market through hands-on experience. We have run competitions for several years and our third Voleo student trading competition sponsored by Nasdaq is underway at the moment. Hundreds of students join the platform where they create teams and invest as groups to learn about the market.

The whole concept of the SimuTrader platform is that you gather the experience without taking the risk, and while I definitely have reservations about the lessons that can be learned in the short term from a paper trading strategy, it certainly helps you get over that initially anxiety about how you start investing and place a trade. It helps new investors understand limit orders and learn about good till orders, etc. All of these things are valuable takeaways from paper trading and that is what we created our SimuTrader platform to do.

CEOCFO: Do you find that investment clubs know when to sell or is that a harder decision than when to buy?

Mr. Beattie: I think for almost all of us, the sell decision is more difficult than the buy decision. Certainly our clubs, being relatively new at generally less than two years old on our platform, are buying more than they are selling because they are building their portfolios by contributing capital each month. We do see turnover of positions that have not performed. We see occasional taking of profits and one of the features that we are working on at the moment is enabling clubs to see what their realized gains or losses are in a year so they are able to trade and more effectively manage the tax consequences of their investment activity.

CEOCFO: What has changed in your approach over time? What have you learned as more and more investment clubs have formed and are making use of what you offer?

Mr. Beattie: We have learned that teams grow over time. While they may start with five to seven core members, over the course of the ensuing months they tend to expand. Our average team size is now ten members and that continues to grow. We are very pleased by this growth as it indicates current users are enjoying the platform enough to invite more friends and family members.

One of the others is that when people start investing for the first time with a peer group whether that is their colleagues or friends, a good percentage of them build the confidence to go off and start one with their family. Our platform is used by many families who want to pass on knowledge as well as wealth to the next generations, and we have accounts that span multiple generations with parents and grandparents of young adult children or grandchildren, working together, all learning from one another and with one another, and that is great to see.

CEOCFO: How is business?

Mr. Beattie: It is growing steadily. We are very pleased with some of the opportunities that we are seeing for collaboration with financial institutions. Voleo was selected for the FIS Accelerator, which was held during summer and in that program we met dozens of financial institutions, several of whom we are now in discussions with about the potential for partnership.

We have a number of different options to fuel growth. One of the most attractive is to partner with existing financial institutions who have a gap in their offering, and this becomes a unique tool for them not only for engagement and to protect some of their existing clients but also to acquire new ones. This resonates both with large international banks and with the credit unions and community banks that perhaps have a gap between the savings accounts, GICs and their wealth offering, which caters to completely different audiences. In savings accounts, clients may have several thousand dollars in assets and all of a sudden to qualify for wealth offerings you are expected to have a quarter million. Where are those clients going between those steps now? They are using other tools, many offered by major fintech brand companies. Many of those fintechs are starting to offer debit cards and high interest savings accounts and are trying to win the core banking relationship away from clients’ financial institution. We want to help financial institutions plug that gap and provide a new tool to engage with those customers – and of course grow through new ones invited by existing clients.

I mentioned that our club size has grown to an average of ten members and over the fullness of time, we have seen that clubs are sending out an average of seventeen invitations each. All of those are qualified leads for our partners.

CEOCFO: Why pay attention to Voleo right now, both from a user perspective and an investment perspective?

Mr. Beattie: I think we are seeing is a world where democratization of investing has become the norm. You saw Robinhood first with commission-free trading arena. You have seen the likes of all of the robo-advisors with offerings for reducing the cost of management at earlier stages. We believe that Voleo occupies a really unique space within the marketplace because we are looking for those that are active, want to learn and do need some help with the barriers. I believe Voleo is ideally positioned within this market.

Over the past year, we have seen the likes of eToro coming to America. They have a slightly different ethos when it comes to collaborative investing; their gain is by making money off people copying others. On the Voleo platform, we do not do that. We enable people to gain ideas from those that they trust and gather insight from a transparent way and make their own decisions. I nonetheless see the entry of a global competitor as being proof that there is a major opportunity within America for social trading, and believe that we are the front runner in that from an authentic user-experience driven platform.

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“What I would say has been most impressive is wealth-building behavior. For example, nearly two thirds of our users contribute money to their accounts each and every month” - Thomas Beattie






Voleo Members Set New Record for Recurring Contributions as Women Investment Participation and Team Size Continues to Grow